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AT&T Long Distance Building

New York, NY

Lobby ceiling and entrance wall

Continents Linked by Telephone and Wireless; Telephone Wires and Radio Unite to Make Neighbors of Nations, 1932

Commissioned by: Voorhees, Gmelin & WalkerMedium: silhouette glass mosaic and colored plaster; building tileExecuted by: Ravenna Mosaics; Continental Clay Products

Lobby ceiling with Continents Linked by the Telephone and Wireless in silhouette mosaic and colored plaster

Lobby ceiling with Continents Linked by the Telephone and Wireless in silhouette mosaic and colored plaster

Hildreth Meière was asked to design decoration for the lobby ceiling at the AT&T Long Distance Building that would symbolize the purpose of the building as a vital center of international communication.1 To represent Continents Linked by the Telephone and Wireless, Meière designed four neo-classically influenced, individual Art Deco figures personifying Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia around the rim of the ceiling. These continents are linked to two female messengers, an eagle, and a condor in the center through gold lines representing the Telephone and Wireless. A rich border reminiscent of Native American quillwork completes the composition.

Sketch in graphite for lobby ceiling

Sketch in graphite for lobby ceiling

Meière’s allegorical female messengers with a condor and eagle in the center of the ceiling face different directions, so that the ceiling reads well from different angles:

Center of ceiling with female messengers, a condor and eagle, and telephone and telegraph wires

Center of ceiling with female messengers, a condor and eagle, and telephone and telegraph wires

The messengers grasp diagonal gold lines representing telephone and telegraph wires leading to four Continents personified on the ceiling’s periphery.

Australia is shown with a sheaf of wheat, a sheep, and a kangaroo; Africa, with a pair of lions and the pyramids in the background; Asia, with a tiger, elephant, and pagoda; and Europe, with a sceptre and orb set against St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and Notre Dame in Paris:

Australia

Australia

Africa

Africa

Asia

Asia

Europe

Europe

Meière also employed silhouette mosaic to create a design along the border of the ceiling in a pattern reminiscent of Native American quillwork.

Detail of border design in lobby corner in silhouette mosaic and colored plaster

Detail of border design in lobby corner in silhouette mosaic and colored plaster

Inside the main entrance, Meière depicted a map of the world. She used brown building tile for her design, the same material used to construct the lobby walls. Entitled Telephone Wires and Radio Unite to Make Neighbors of Nations, the map was executed by Continental Clay Products.

Telephone Wires and Radio Unite to Make Neighbors of Nations, map at lobby entrance

Telephone Wires and Radio Unite to Make Neighbors of Nations, map at lobby entrance

In 1991, The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the lobby a city landmark. The lobby was subsequently restored by Rudin Management.

1

For further information see Catherine Coleman Brawer and Kathleen Murphy Skolnik, The Art Deco Murals of Hildreth Meière (New York: Andrea Monfried Editions, 2014) 145-49.

Additional Resources

Commission Location

Emblem

32 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10013

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